Motor System, Skin And Hair Of Dogs

Movement Of Dogs

The tendons, muscles and ligaments of a dog are mostly similar to those of humans. A dog has four limbs, all of which are designed for locomotion, ranging from a slow walk to a quick run. Just like horses, dogs have four distinct gaits; a walk, trot, canter and gallop. The long bones we have in our limbs are similar to those found in the dog’s lower legs. A person’s ankle can be compared to the pointed hock in a dog’s hind legs. Though most dogs can swim, some like the retrievers are more naturally adapted to swimming than others.

Pads and Nails Of Dogs

The paw of a canine is made up of specific structures that enable a dog to travel over varying surfaces. A thick, tough pad covers the underside of each paw, created by years of constant friction with the ground. These pads keep the paws protected while ensuring strong traction on different kinds of surfaces. Digging and adequate traction are provided by brittle toenails, which consist of a protein called keratin.

A large circulatory network runs down the centre and provides nutrients for the growing nail. It can get quite complicated when trimming darkened toenails, as these blood vessels have to be avoided. It is imperative that the nails be trimmed, as nails that rip off or break when running or jumping can inflict pain and loss of blood. A veterinarian should check out broken nails, remove fractured sections, treat wounds and stop infections from curing. Dogs possess what are called ‘dew claws’, equivalents of human thumbs, located in the middle of the front paw or lower front legs. These dew claws serve no purpose, usually breaking off. They have to be clipped regularly to prevent them from bending and growing into the foot, although they can also be clipped off when puppies are young or during other surgical processes.

Skin and Hair Of Dogs

The skin of a canine consists of an external epidermis whose cells are continually being replaced, and an inner layer (dermis) that has blood vessels and nerve endings. Since dogs are more thin-skinned than humans, they should be washed with shampoos made exclusively for pets. Human shampoos and products can cause severe irritation to canine skin.

Dogs have compound hair follicles rooted in their skin, with three to fifteen hairs growing out of every primary central hair follicle. The hair is maintained by sebaceous glands, which produce oil to lubricate, keep shiny and make the hair water proof. The growth of dog hair is affected by a number of factors, such as hormones, time of year and nutrition levels. Dogs usually shed hair slowly and steadily throughout the year, with spring and autumn being the time of most shedding. The shed hair is replaced, and any sign of bald spots should be examined closely in case of illness.

The core purposes of the coat of hair are to guard the skin and control temperatures. It traps air and maintains a layer of insulation against low temperatures. Little muscles connected to the guard hairs permit dogs to lift these hairs, which improves the trapping of air. Dogs also lift up their hackles when they sense danger.

There are varying types of hair coats, depending on the dog breed. Breeds that originate from northern, cooler climates possess soft, fluffy undercoats that give superior insulation in freezing weather e.g. Huskies and Malamutes. Breeds which are suited to water e.g. retrievers, have longer and stiffer guard hairs to shield the skin and undercoat from difficult environmental surroundings. They also produce enough oil secretions to keep the hair lubricated. Warm climate breeds possess shorter coats intended to provide only shade for the skin. Finally, poodles have very fine, wavy hair that doesn’t shed as much as other breeds.

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